Bruff battle from brink to earn shot at final glory

AT a pre-match lunch at Kilballyowen Park yesterday, visiting IRFU President Caleb Powell described Bruff as a remarkable club that embodied all of the positive things in Irish domestic rugby.

He was on the money, for two hours later this tightly-knit Limerick side battled back from an impossible situation to secure a place in the final of the Bateman, All-Ireland Cup.

Bruff produced a thrilling comeback to score 17 points without reply in the last quarter and grab their opportunity to play either Dungannon or Galway Corinthians for the national title.

This was the type of fairytale comeback one can only dream of, probably brought about by belief, conviction and possibly fear of losing face in front of their own hugely loyal supporters. With a small but vociferous band of visiting fans, UCD had more than contributed to the occasion and had all but wrapped up the game in the 59th minute when they scored a third high-quality try to lead 22-7.

But Munster Cup victors Bruff are made of stern stuff and their fans never shirked when the team needed encouragement. Player-coach Eoin Cahill admitted that the team talk on the goal line after conceding that third try was the catalyst for a remarkable response that took shape when they managed to snatch a seven pointer with a full 18 minutes on the clock.

Having deserved their earlier lead, UCD suddenly found the weight of the Bruff pack and perhaps the expectation a little too much. Having huffed and puffed earlier in the game, the home side went back to a simple game plan that revolved around a hugely dominant scrum and powerful mauls and which left UCD clinging on to the lead until a late flurry broke their challenge.

UCD coach Bobby Byrne admitted that the physicality of the game took its toll on his charges; that the punishment his side shipped in almost every scrum wore them down and their energy reserves just ran out in face of that furious late Bruff assault.

Byrne admitted the scrum, which yielded Bruff an early penalty try and some hugely beneficial turnovers, was probably the deciding factor. “It wore us down; in the last 15 minutes our guys were certainly feeling it a bit,” he said.

Bruff’s player-coach Cahill admitted it was way too close for comfort but a good result all the same. “At 22-7 we were in a difficult place but giving up wasn’t an option, not for this team.

“After they scored that try our main concern was to get back up the field and put ourselves in with a chance at least. That second try was a huge boost and we were happy that we had plenty of time to turn it around having got within striking distance. Still, it took a huge effort and UCD made us fight for everything, even if our scrum was well on top.”

That scrum technique and weight paved the way for a 13th-minute try with referee Jonathan Peak having no option but to award a penalty try as Bruff drove over the UCD line and two players dived in illegally to attempt to halt the score. Brian Cahill converted, but Bruff hadn’t things their own way subsequently by any means.

James Thornton missed his first kick at goal for the students but then kicked a 25th-minute penalty and UCD’s potency behind the scrum was highlighted when captain Andy Commiskey grabbed a superb try in the 33rd minute with some considerable help from John Conroy and Michael Twomey. Thornton added the points to secure a 10-7 half-time lead.

Five minutes into the second half, David McSharry galloped in for a second try after Rob Shanley’s decisive blind side break and Thornton again converted.

Bruff had their opportunities but failed to take advantage of a succession of scrums on the UCD line before the visitors struck with another excellent try, this time from Twomey.

Tony Cahill’s 60th-minute penalty miss from close range appeared to sum up Bruff’s dwindling chance of saving the day – they lost regular goal kicker, brother Brian Cahill, through injury late in the first half – but the drama was merely about to unfold.

Flanker John Shine wriggled over for a try just after the hour mark, which Cahill converted, and the out-half then added another penalty to narrow the gap to five. That UCD lead proved not enough as Bruff opted to kick for touch with a late penalty, won the line out and then a series of rucks after the initial maul brought them to within a couple of metres.

The defence from UCD was heroic but Bruff’s patience was the key and Shine slipped over for his second try near the posts allowing Cahill to kick the winning points in a welter of excitement from the touchlines.

BRUFF: B. Deady; P. O’Brien, B. Cahill, E. Cahill, N. O’Riordan; T. Cahill, E. Maher; D. Horan, C. O’Regan (captain), G. Ryan; M. O’Connell, D. Murnane; A. Bourke, P. Malone, J. Shine.

Replacements: J. Carroll for B. Cahill (40, injured), C. O’Sullivan for Ryan, M Carroll for Burke, J. Moore for O’Brien (all 54).

UCD: M . Twomey; J. Conroy, M. Cummiskey (captain), D. McSharry, A. Boyle; J. Thornton, R. Shanley; J. Lee, D. Doyle, B Hall; B. Cawley, M. Flanagan; S. Grannell, K. Croke, D. Kenny.

Replacements: R. Byrne for Kenny, K. Maloney for Hall, K. McKenna for Grannell (all 60)

Referee: J. Peak (IRFU).

More in this section

Sport Push Notifications

By clicking on 'Sign Up' you will be the first to know about our latest and best sporting content on this browser.

Sign Up

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd